Occasionally DIY dressmakers need to add a seam allowance or a seam stitching line to a sewing pattern or piece of fabric. Today I want to share three tools you can use to draw in the line evenly – at least one of them might surprise you!
But first, why would you need to do this?
If you’re hacking a sewing pattern - for example, adding a skirt to a top pattern - you'll need to add a seam allowance to any new seam lines that you draw in so you've got something to attach the new piece to.
If you’re creating your own pattern from scratch, or if you’re using a ready made pattern by a company that doesn’t include seam allowances, you’ll need to add in your own. (You don’t need to do this with Tilly and the Buttons patterns, they all include 15mm or 5/8in seam allowances.)
Or on the other hand, if you’re sewing a pattern that already has seam allowances, but you want to make extra sure that you’re sewing the seams accurately, at an even distance from the raw edge, then you may want to draw the stitching line onto the fabric. This would be helpful if you’re sewing a tricky curve, for example, and want to follow the seam line with your machine needle rather than keeping the raw edge lined up with the seam allowance guide.
1) Pattern master
A pattern master (or pattern maker) is a type of ruler used in pattern cutting that has lots of useful lines on it. They come in both metric and imperial measurements.
You can line it up at your chosen distance from existing lines and draw new parallel lines easily. It's straight forward for drawing straight lines. For curved lines, there is a curved edge but it doesn't usually have a wide enough seam allowance on it for home sewing patterns (usually 15mm or 5/8in), and the curve shape is limited. Instead, move the straight edge around the curve, drawing a parallel dot or small dash every cm of two, then join them up afterwards with a curved ruler or steady hand.
Little tip – make sure your pencil is sharp and that you’re pressing it right up against the edge of the ruler, otherwise you may end up with a wider seam allowance than you intended ;)
2) Adjustable double tracing wheel
A double tracing wheel has different holes to insert two adjustable tracing wheels into, letting you space them apart by the seam allowance measurement you want to use.
Roll it along with one of the wheels exactly on the original line, and the other one will mark in the seam allowance or seam line at an even distance. If you’re using it on paper, you can go over the indentations in pencil afterwards. If you’re using it on fabric, slip a sheet of dressmaker’s carbon underneath, carbon side against the fabric, to transfer the lines.
I don’t find these tools quite as accurate as other methods on straight lines as it's quite easy to wibble off the lines, but they’re very quick and easy to use on curves.
3) A little strip of card
This is a trick I picked up on the bra-making course I took at Morley College (thanks, Carol!). It’s so simple, it seems silly to even type this out, but I hadn’t thought of it before so it’s worth sharing!
All you do is cut a slim little strip of card and mark the seam allowance on it. Line up the marking with the original line, and dot or dash in the new line along the edge of the card. You can join up the dots or dashes afterwards with a curved ruler or steady hand.
Again, I wouldn’t use this on straight lines, but it’s really handy on curves!
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Tips for accurate sewing
Tips for tracing sewing patterns
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